Wielding a blow-dryer, a leading atheist conducted a mass "de-baptism" of fellow non-believers and symbolically dried up the offending waters that were sprinkled on their foreheads as young children.
At the annual American Atheists Convention, one of atheism's premier provocateurs, Edwin Kagin, faced the crowd and raised high a hairdryer labeled "Reason and Truth."
Said one woman who travelled from Cincinnati to undergo the de-baptism, "I was baptized Catholic. I don't remember any of it at all." The woman, Cambridge Boxterman, 24, added, "According to my mother I screamed like a banshee, and those are her words, so you can see that even as a young child I didn't want to be baptized. It's not fair. I was born atheist and they were forcing me to become Catholic."
Kagin, who is American Atheists' national legal director, firmly believes that regardless of one's religious beliefs, each person has the right to say or do what he or she wants, provided it is within the law. In the past, he has reportedly called out parents who subject their children to strict fundamentalist religious education, referring to it as child abuse.
"It is teaching children that the world works in other ways than it does," he said. "This can be extremely dangerous."
"They are practicing child abuse in teaching that the world operates in ways other than it does," he told the convention crowd. "And in my opinion, they are engaged in terrorism by weakening our nation and our understanding of science and things with which we can defend ourselves and progress. If it had not been for these fools we could have been at the stars 2,000 years ago."
Kagin, author of "Baubles of Blasphemy," has a history of behaving in ways that elicit a rise from God-fearing people. He's known to have asked female atheists to dress in burqas and perform a song, "Back in their Burquas Again," he's referred to Mary Magdalene as a deranged hooker and he's called the Holy Eucharist "Swallow the Leader."
Kagin said religion should not be used to determine how people ought to live their lives. "They're doing harm to women who want to control their own bodies and their own reproductive rights," he said. "They're doing harm to a great number of people and they're saying that 'what we're doing is sacred and inviolate. We can do whatever we want to your rights, and you can not react.' That's what they're doing."
It is in this same spirit that Kagin performs the de-baptism.
Standing at a podium wearing a long brown monk's robe, Kagin read with the oratorical skill of a preacher from a set of pages in his hand and invited participants to come forward to be de-baptized.
He recited a few mock-Latin syllables, to the audience's amusement. An assistant produced a large hairdryer, labeled "Reason and Truth," and handed it to Kagin. The man who'd elected himself to be de-baptized stood before him. Kagin turned on the hairdryer, blowing the hot air in his face in an attempt to symbolically dry up his baptismal waters.
"Come forward now and receive the spirit of hot air that taketh away the stigma and taketh away the remnants of the stain of baptismal water," Kagin shouts.
Atheists poke fun at baptisms in this ceremony, saying they believe their waving around a hairdryer holds the same level of magical and spiritual powers as does the baptismal ceremony.